Google’s Encrypted (Not Provided) Analytics Solutions

Published on September 25, 2013

Google has aggressively shifted policy to encrypt all organic search visit data, which has the potential to drastically impact analytics if the proper steps aren’t taken. This isn’t the first time Google has hidden search results from marketers and businesses. In late 2011, Google began this process by making searches private for Google users logged into their accounts. As Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land reported, in August 2013 Google started encrypting non-logged-in users’ search data. Industry experts estimate that by the end of 2013 all incoming organic search data will be classified as (not provided). Meaning a viewer of Google Analytics will have no idea what search terms were used to lead visitors to your site.

(not provided) example

(not provided) example: Jan 1, 2012 – Sep 21, 2013

The change poses some clear obstacles to research:

  • Removing clear paths to keyword/conversion data
  • Top organic keywords per landing page
  • Brand versus non-brand keyword performance data

RIESTER analysts are able to uncover insightful information through expert use of Google Analytics data still available and other research tools. The solutions outlined will provide usable solutions to the recent changes in Google Analytics.

Solutions for (not provided) Organic Search Analytics

With the encryption of organic search data, Google is forcing a change in tactics to identify historic search term performance for future planning. RIESTER has identified three ways to regain the information lost by Google’s move. The following solutions will provide much more information than a big report featuring the vague “(Not Provided)” encompassing all of the organic traffic performance.

Use the Existing Google Analytics Data

While Google’s recent change creates some research difficulties, there is still a wealth of available information in Google Analytics. The direct line of data (e.g. Keywords driving revenue or conversions) is not available; we can still uncover a great deal of insight from page-level information. This viewpoint is based on the fact that, ideally, each major search theme or query should land on a distinct page within the website. For example, if visitors search for Widgets, there should be a page for widgets. If you find that your widgets page has poor engagement based on the page type (homepage, category, product page), you can determine if the page content, on-page optimization or off-page factors need to be addressed. In his recent Whiteboard Friday Tuesday, Rand Fishkin additionally explained how marketers will be able to pull together information we still have into actionable insights.

(not provided) solution diagram

By combining Google Analytics Page Metrics, Ranking Data (seoClarity) and Webmaster Tools Keyword Insights, we can further see the areas of opportunity per page for a given, high-value search term.

Google Webmaster Tools and AdWords Keyword Reports

The SEO analytics platform, seoClarity, is able to archive keyword performance data provided by Google Webmaster Tools. This historic record of keyword performance will be invaluable when constructing a content calendar or identifying content gaps/opportunities.

Additionally, recent updates to Google AdWords reporting will enable marketers to view keyword performance within the AdWords platform. RIESTER SEM and SEO services will review the new features to address areas of opportunity for search as a whole with the new reporting available.

Site Search Data

Another opportunity to pull search keyword data is through in-site search data that is tracked through Google Analytics. These are the terms visitors to the site search for after arriving. The drawback to this method is, these will likely be long-tail, product-level terms and not the more general search queries that users make in Google, Bing or Yahoo. The benefit to researching in-site search data is it will help digital marketers understand what content users have difficulty finding or want to find quickly, then create dedicated pages around that content, a blog post or simply clarify website usability and navigation.

If necessity is the mother of invention, this move by Google will most certainly be the catalyst for savvy digital marketers and researchers to collaborate for solutions to create compelling, user-focused content and optimization. 

For additional information about Google Analytics as well as RIESTER SEO and Content Strategy solutions, please Contact Us.